Motivational Interviewing

Anyone who has ever made a New Year’s resolution only to break it by January 15 and then “start again” in February has insights into the waxing and waning nature of motivation. Motivation to make and sustain a behavior change is not an intrinsic character trait, but rather a constantly changing state.

For many patients, lifestyle changes––exercising more, drinking less, taking medications as prescribed––can improve health. In many instances, patients are already aware of these potential health benefits, but they do not want to give up a competing behavior. For example, a patient may find exercise too strenuous, heavy alcohol use pleasurable, or that a medication has an unpleasant side effect. Clinician advice tends to focus on the benefits of changing behavior. In contrast, motivational interviewing (MI) focuses on exploring the benefits of a current behavior compared with the potential benefits of behavior change.

This module introduces the concept of motivational interviewing (MI), defined by those who developed the technique as “a collaborative conversation style for strengthening a person’s own motivation and commitment to change.” 1 It provides information on the theoretical basis of MI, an overview of MI processes, a description of clinical tools that are used in MI, and practical guidance on integrating MI into a medical practice.

Target Audience

How will these tools help?

  • Physicians
  • Physician Assistants
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Registered Nurses
  • Medical Assistants
  • Practice Managers

Learning Objectives

Why is this important?

 All clinicians know that simply telling a patient to make a change in his or her lifestyle or behavior is usually not enough. Research shows that MI works. There is a solid evidence base demonstrating that even brief interventions using MI strategies can result in behavior change.2 MI was originally developed to help patients with alcohol and drug problems but has since gained widespread attention as an effective way to elicit other behavior changes.3,4 Today, MI is used to address an array of health conditions—from diabetes and obesity to heart disease and lower back pain. 

How will these tools help?

This module describes the basic principles of MI so clinicians are better prepared to support patients in behavior modification. It also serves as a guide to facilitate the incorporation of MI into the spectrum of patient interactions in primary care practice settings.


1Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (2013). Motivational interviewing: Preparing people for change(2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

2Rubak, S., Sandbaek, A., Lauritzen, T., & Christensen, B. (2005). Motivational interviewing: A systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of General Practice, 55, 305–312.

3Miller, W. R., & Rose, G. S. (2009). Toward a theory of motivational interviewing. American Psychologist, 64(6), 527–537.

4Miller, W. R. (1983). Motivational interviewing with problem drinkers. Behavioral Psychotherapy, 11, 147–172.

Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 1.00 Attendance
Course opens: 
Course expires: 
Parent activity set: 

This module was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

This module was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Available Credit

  • 1.00 Attendance


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